Last week, ML and I fought almost every night before sleeping, a result I think of generally feeling somewhat disconnected from each other. I know that most (if not all) relationships have an ebbing and flowing of connection, meaning that there are times we’ll be super connected to each other, in sync, in tune, responsive… and there are times we’ll be not so in sync, operating on different frequencies, different schedules, preoccupied with other shit in our lives, and for us, lately has been one of those times. Clearly, we’re both busy: she with work, with her band releasing its demo and playing shows and rehearsing a lot, with working on compositions for her graduate school applications, with music biz networking; me with grad school, with work part-time at the law firm, with crisis center work. We’ve had house guests two weekends in a row, with more this weekend and the following weekend. So it’s not all that shocking that we’re both wrapped up in stuff other than each other, and initially I was mostly okay with what I knew to be a temporary “ebb.”
But as the fights have gotten worse and the effects of them more lingering (tired the next day, crankier, short with each other), I’ve been starting to feel insecure. Disconnect tends to make me feel insecure in general, and though I do feel okay with temporary ebbs, as they draw out past a week, anxiety starts creeping in and I start to feel weepy and clingy (in addition to feeling distracted and cranky and disconnected)… Not a great combo. And that’s when the fighting starts to escalate. It’s really not fun. We’re going to bed, I, in my hypersensitive-to-everything-she-does state, feel anxious that she’s far away, ask her if she loves me or something equally vague and annoying, she gets frustrated and defensive, I get upset, she gets mega-bitchy, I get worked up in a frothy tearing mess, she gets even more frustrated and defensive, and we both start accusing each other of ”always doing this” and “why can’t you blah blah” and yeah, it’s ugly. And increasingly we’ve both been getting worried about what-the-hell-is-up with us.
And then Saturday night we figured it out.
A few weeks ago, ML was diagnosed with carpal tunnel. She works too much, at a job she really dislikes, in a field she can’t stomach, and in a high-stress environment that is taking its toll on her body. She’s committed to getting out by next summer (she’s applying to MFA programs for music/composition), but in the meantime, she’s having to deal with carpal tunnel and try as best she can to keep it in check. She ices it several times a day, has various stretches that she does, is starting physical therapy, sleeps on her back with her arm raised…
SLEEPS ON HER BACK. She sleeps on her back. Which means that we get into bed, turn out the light, kiss good night, and then lie there on our separate sides of the bed, maybe shoulders touching and hands brushing against each other but that’s about it and that’s supposed to be enough contact to get us through the night? Yeah, right. The entire almost-two-years we’ve been together, we’ve slept (or at least started off sleeping) in Sleep Position: her big spoon to my little, pressed up against and curled into each other, hearts beating front-to-back, her breath light on my shoulder and her arm wrapped around me. No matter what we’d been up to in our separate daily lives, we ended the day by curling up together close, connecting our bodies as we drifted off to sleep. Sleep Position brings us together, (re-)connects us.
It was two and a half weeks ago that she was diagnosed and that dates back to exactly when I started feeling the disconnect expanding, my wakefulness at night thinking “where is she? what’s going on? why does she feel so far away?” And Saturday night, after the worst fight all week, when we were both tearfully apologizing to each other, accepting our own responsibility in the fight, messily trying to articulate what it was that we thought was going on for each of us, she said “I think it’s Sleep Position. I feel far away from you at night rather than close to you.” And I knew right away that she was right. I was so relieved, relieved that she’d hit on it, relieved that she felt the same way I did, relieved that there was a reason that was so simple and a solution so simple: “We can just start out in Sleep Position,” she said, “we don’t stay in it all night anyway, and I’m sure 20 minutes of being on my side won’t hurt my arm.”
Obviously, lacking Sleep Position wasn’t the only source of our disconnecting over the past few weeks. I’ve already laid out the real main sources: being busy, stressed, and um can I reiterate busy and stressed? But not closing out the day being physically close to each other in a way that has come, through time, to also be symbolic of emotional closeness was taking its toll. So Saturday night and then last night too we curled up together, two spoons, to fall asleep. And you know what? It was that simple.